Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Marla Paul is a columnist with the Chicago Tribune newspaper. She wrote a rather personal article called “I am Lonely”. Here’s what she wrote: “This loneliness saddens me. How did it happen that I could be 42-years-old and not have enough friends?”
She asked her husband if there was something wrong with her. She wondered if people were just too busy. She wondered if women realised how lonely other women were. Then she wrote this: “I recently read a book to my daughter, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. I felt an immediate kinship with this bird who flies from place to place looking for creatures with whom he belongs.” She concluded, “He eventually finds them. I hope I do too.”
Why do we feel so lonely sometimes?
The result of her article was amazing. People stopped her at work or when shopping or when she went to her daughter’s school. People said: “You too? I thought I was the only one”. Her mail increased sevenfold and the letters and emails all had the same theme, Why do I feel so lonely? Why is it so hard to make good friends?
John Ortberg, who wrote a wonderful book called Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, said a poll of American men showed 90% of the male population lacked a true friend. Is it true to say that we do not want to admit to being lonely? Is it a sign of being a loser? Albert Schweitzer said, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness”.
Loneliness is different than being alone.
Loneliness is different than being alone. We all need to be alone from time to time—that’s good, that’s healthy. Solitude can be a wonderful discipline in our walk with God. But loneliness, on the other hand, is about that sad, empty, desperate feeling that comes from feeling alone even in a crowd of people.
Suzy Becker, who wrote the book All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat, wrote another little volume called The All Better Book. And in it she asks school kids to try and solve some of the world’s toughest problems—problems like what to do about the shrinking ozone layer and how to help people stop smoking. And one of the questions she asked was, “With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no-one is lonely. What do you suggest?”
Kids’ solutions to the problem of loneliness
- An eight-year-old girl named Kalani stepped up to the plate and said, “People should find lonely people and ask their name and address. Then ask people who aren’t lonely their name and address. When you have an even amount of each, assign lonely and not lonely people together in the newspaper.” Sounds like a bright kid!
- A nine-year-old boy named Max said, “Make food that talks to you when you eat. For instance, it would say, How are you doing? and What happened to you today?” Talking food was his solution. That’s thinking outside the box.
- Eight-year-old Matt said, “We could get people a pet—or a husband or a wife and take them places.” Hey, what’s the difference, a pet, a husband, a wife!
- But it was Brian, another eight-year-old, who gave the most revealing solution when he said, “Sing a song. Stomp your feet. Read a book. Sometimes when I think no-one loves me, I do one of these.”
With billions of people in the world, someone should figure out a system where no-one is lonely. There is no pain like loneliness. And I’m sure most of us have felt that pain it at one time or another. You may be feeling right now. But despite all the people and all the activity, we so rarely connect deeply with others. We have become a society of clients more than colleagues, acquaintances more than friends.
The importance of connecting
In his book Connect, Edward Hallowell writes that for most people the two most powerful experiences in life are achieving and connecting. Most of what makes our life worthwhile revolves around these two things:
- Achieving has to do with our accomplishments and includes things like learning to ride a bike, making a team, winning a game, finishing a job, pursing career success.
- Connecting has to do with our relational world and includes things like falling in love, forming great friendships, being cared for by others when we’re sick, hearing words of deep affection from our parents.
In his book Connecting, Larry Crabb says,
When two people connect, when their beings intersect as closely as two bodies during intercourse, something is poured out of one and into the other that has the power to heal the soul of its deepest wounds and restore it to health. The one who receives experiences the joy of being healed. The one who gives knows the even greater joy of being used to heal. Something good is in the heart of each of God’s children that is more powerful than everything bad. It’s there, waiting to be released, work its magic.
God wants us to be one with him and with each other. That’s why the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” It’s not always easy to get along with others, because of our nature or temperament, but it’s worth trying. For God created us to be with others—we need each other.
We were not meant to live isolated, disconnected lives. And one day he wants us to move in to his perfect home in heaven, so we can enjoy him forever and live in that perfect community. That’s why God created us in the first place, not because he was lonely, bored, or needed someone to love or to love him.